Friday, August 31, 2007

The opportunities of evangelism on campus

With students returning to DC I am reminded once again of the unique opportunity that college life provides for evangelism.

College is perhaps one of the most unique opportunities for evangelism that you will have in your life. There will not be another time where you will likely be living, working, relaxing, exercising, eating, thinking and socializing with one group of people. This means that there will never be another group of Non-Christians who will be able to observe your life at such close quarters, and with whom you will have such incredible opportunities for multiple conversations about the gospel.What’s more, there is never a time when people are so self-consciously forming opinions about the world and their place in it as when they are students. What an incredible God-given opportunity!

In the coming days & weeks I intend to post several thoughts on the particular opportunities and challenges to evangelism on campus.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Introducing God

After a sad neglect of my blog for the last few weeks (and, to be honest, since my youngest son was born in April) I thought it was about time to continue my review of evangelistic & apologetic resources.

Introducing God is another in the series of evangelistic courses following the Alpha / Christianity Explored format of talk, meal & discussion. Written by Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media, broadly speaking it is an expansion and exposition of the Two ways to live gospel outline that I reviewed earlier.

The difference Jesus makes weekend

There are loads of things that I really love about this course.

1. A whole biblical worldview is presented. Two ways to live is a such a great outline of the gospel. It assumes no knowledge of the gospel. Like the bible itself it shows us our need of Jesus rather than assuming that everyone would inherently be interested. The whole plot line of the bible is outlined and climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus, with a very clear call to respond by repentance and faith.

2. Good decisions were made in expanding the two ways to live material. In a world unfamiliar with Christ it is good to have three weeks looking at Jesus, not two. Whereas 2wtl has cross and resurrection, IG has the authority, cross and resurrection of Jesus. The three mini-talks on the weekend are good at helping people to see a little more what the Christian life looks like, and therefore enables people to count the cost of discipleship well.

3. The material is flexible: you have the choice of using the videos of Dominic Steele's excellent talks themselves, or using the format (and PowerPoint presentations provided) and having live speakers who would be free to alter personal illustration, or change illustrations to fit their culture better. (If you choose the videos and are not Australian, you do get some interesting views into Australian culture, including the introduction of a Steggles Number One)

4. If you choose to use the videos, Dominic Steele is a faithful preacher, good communicator and passionate evangelist.

5. The talks are expository which helps people to see that the idea's are not the speaker's but the Bible's. They do a good job of expounding the texts rather than just reading into them.

6. The video's are extremely well produced - the talks are all given as live talks to a group that was genuinely going through the course. This both serves to give an immediacy to the talks, and helps to model to the group attending the course the ways in which they are invited to have open discussion about the material.

I have a couple of minor reservations.

1. In the videos there are depictions of Christ, including on the cross, I think from the Jesus film. Wherever one falls on depictions of Christ and whether they are permissible, within the church there have been enough Christians for whom this would trample on their consciences, and it adds so little that they would have been better left out.

2. At the end of a couple of the talks Dominic leads in a "sinners' prayer". Immediately after this Lee Hatcher (who introduces and concludes each video) gives a verbal assurance of salvation to those who have prayed that prayer. This is done a little carelessly, as if praying a sinner's prayer is equivalent to salvation. Better that affirmation of the credibility of someone's profession of faith is left up to the church in which that person is baptised.

Both these minor criticisms would be easily removed if you chose to do the talks live rather than using the videos.

On balance Introducing God is the prepackaged talk & discussion format course that I like best. I pray that the Lord would use it in Australia and beyond to bring people to not just be Introduced to God, but also to be granted repentance and faith in Christ Jesus as they are face with the choice we all face.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Two years at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Two years ago to the day (1st August 2005) I boarded a plane with my wife, daughter and son to move to Washington DC, and to be involved with Capitol Hill Baptist Church. They have been two fantastic years, and I am hugely grateful for...
1) The congregation at CHBC who have taught me do much about what it means to be a Loving Church. A couple of stories will illustrate the extraordinary love that only the gospel can bring about. An elderly member of the church was in hospital; she had so many visits from members of CHBC that the nurses asked her, "Who ARE you? Who are all these people!?" Her answer, "I'm a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and that is my family."

2) The elders at CHBC who have taught me that a plurality of godly elders are needed for a church to be well loved by being well fed. The elders are a great body of men who have been committed

3) The pastors: Thabiti Anyabwile was pastor at CHBC until he left for Grand Cayman exactly a year ago. One of my first experiences of Thabiti was the very kind way in which he was willing to befriend and love a brother like me who is rather different to me culturally. "Come into my office, have a seat... you seem a little awkward Mike, what's going on." I didn't dare to tell him at the time that my awkwardness was just a normal English way of behaving... but I guess he found that out later!

Andy Johnson is a great example of a strategic thinker. I've never known a church with such a strong desire to see loving churches planted in places where the gospel is little heard. Much of that desire has come from Andy discipling people into his own passion for the lost.

Michael Lawrence is an extremely gifted preacher, biblical theologian and counsellor who is willing to serve in a church where he gets many of the less pleasant jobs that would normally fall onto a senior pastor's shoulders. Why? Because he has a passion to train up future pastors, and CHBC is a good place to do that.

Mark Dever has patiently loved me for many years; the Lord has used him to shape my thinking as to how church should be loving and I should love the church more than any other man. It is privilege to serve with him.

Many of the lessons that I hope will last with me as long as the Lord gives me life, he has taught me through these four men.

One of the great blessing of being in a loving church is seeing my family so well loved. People love my children (a single lady in her twenties taking my daughter out to the cinema, countless people looking after our children out of love for Hannah and me to give us some time with just the two of us.) People love my wife (but then, she is very easy to love) in the way that they have spent time encouraging her and being encouraged by her to love the Lord more; in praying for her and with her; in serving her so well by providing childcare (and more than childcare, high quality biblical teaching to my children... My 3 year old was able to say "A is for Adoration, C is for Confession, T is for thanksgiving, S if for suffocation" - he couldn't quite manage "supplication"!) This level of care for my children has been Sunday morning (Sunday school and the main service) and Sunday evening so that Hannah has not been so well fed by the word for years.

My family and I have been back visiting the UK for the last few days; it has been a good time today to reflect on the Lord's kindness to us through one local church that the Lord has used to shape us since we were last in the UK. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is by no means a perfect church. But it has been a privilege to celebrate 2 years of being a part of this loving church.